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Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media

16 December 2019

Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1

26 February – 16 May 2020, free entry

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) presents its first virtual reality (VR) exhibition, exploring key moments in the evolution of architectural styles over the last 500 years.

Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg of Space Popular

What makes a style fashionable? How is a style collectively agreed and shared?

This new commission by multidisciplinary design studio Space Popular raises one of the most enduring concerns of architecture: the rise and fall of styles. Drawing on RIBA’s world-class collections, Space Popular uses virtual reality to examine architecture styles of the past – from the Renaissance to postmodernism - and to consider technology’s impact on contemporary buildings and spaces. Historic artefacts will be displayed alongside newly-commissioned content, welcoming visitors into a virtual universe to experience how popular cultures and technologies impact architecture and its evolution.

A large-scale architectural model and vast colourful carpet will dominate the real-life gallery, incorporating references which epitomise individual architectural styles. Through interactive content, avatars (or digital guides) will take each visitor on an illuminating tour through the space, elaborating on the real-life display of artefacts from the RIBA collections and their relation to technological innovations through time.

The show includes contributions from internationally renowned architectural scholars; in addition, students from London Design and Engineering University Technical College participated in a co-creation programme with Space Popular and RIBA, producing their own avatars, virtual worlds and alternative interpretation.

Co-founder of Space Popular, Lara Lesmes, says:

“Styles are most easily recognised as patterns, which can translate across mediums, from cutlery to textiles, furniture to buildings. This show explores how style relates to popular culture and technological changes.”

Co-founder of Space Popular, Fredrik Hellberg, says:

“Architectural style has throughout all of human history been the most class dividing art. As spatial media makes its entry through virtual reality, this may finally change.”

Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media is the second in a series of installation exhibitions based on the iconic publication by Italian renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio: The Seven Books of Architecture. The first exhibition, Disappear Here – On Perspective and other Kinds of Space, saw the architect Sam Jacob respond to On Perspective. Freestyle takes its cue from the fourth volume of Serlio’s publication On the Five Styles of Buildings. An early edition of Serlio’s work forms part of RIBA’s Rare Book collection, and features in the show.

This exhibition has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Notes to editors:

  1. For further information contact Emily Stallard in the RIBA press office: / 020 7307 3813
  2. Press images can be downloaded here
  3. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media is curated by Shumi Bose, Curator Exhibitions, RIBA.
  4. The Architecture Gallery at RIBA is open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday and until 8pm every Tuesday. It is closed on Sundays. Free entrance. RIBA is at 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD. Nearest tubes are Oxford Circus, Regent’s Park and Great Portland Street.
  5. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates
  6. RIBA Collections Since its foundation in 1834, the RIBA has amassed one of the world’s largest and richest architectural collections, which now comprises over four million drawings, books, models and photographs.
  7. Space Popular is a multidisciplinary design and research practice led by Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg. Space Popular makes architecture, products, furniture graphics, interfaces and research.
  8. Sebastiano Serlio is one of the most important but unnoticed architectural writers and the first to emphasise the practical rather than theoretical aspects of architecture. His writing was unusually accessible - using predominantly visuals rather than text and writing in the vernacular rather than Latin – to communicate complex ideas. An early edition of Serlio’s work forms part of RIBA’s Rare Book collection.
  9. This exhibition is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England; for more information please visit:
  10. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media is accompanied by Forms of Industry: Photographs by Alastair Philip Wiper and Eric de Maré on the RIBA First Floor Gallery from 26 February.


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